Recently, my loving husband had surgery to remove a brain tumor. When we learned of the tumor, some doctors were moving fast and some painfully slow. I experienced two prayer miracles during this time. While I was texting my frustration to a sincere prayer warrior, medical professionals started calling on Gary’s cell phone giving us the information and care we needed. I have never had a prayer request answered so quickly, and it happened twice during that day. Gary’s successful surgery was two days later. I value the gift of praying friends.
In Luke chapter 9 is the surprising story of Jesus taking Peter, John and James to the Mount of Transfiguration to pray. We don’t think of the Mount of Transfiguration as a story about prayer, but that is what Luke was emphasizing. But unfortunately, they fell asleep instead of engaging in prayer. Whenever I read this story my heart is saddened for Jesus. How could they not see the importance of a prayer invitation with Jesus? But, if I am honest I have to admit I am more like the disciples in their prayer slumber.
I often have trouble discerning the importance of and time for prayer. Unless I am listening very closely I can miss the call to come away with Jesus. I can easily practice a life of prayerlessness like these disciples.
Peter, John and James eyewitnessed Jesus’ majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration. God the Father called them to listen carefully to what he was revealing about his beloved son. Sadly, the disciples failed to comprehend that this lesson was important.
Deeming the prayer lesson unworthy or boring, they fell asleep.
This would not be the last time the disciples fell asleep when Jesus called an important prayer meeting. They also fell asleep while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus was arrested.
Matthew and Mark’s version of the Mount of Transfiguration leave out that they climbed the mountain to pray. This is foundational information if you want to understand the priority Jesus is putting on prayer. Check out Luke 9:28-36.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things a cloud came and over shadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. ESV
Jesus modeled the importance of prayer.
Sometimes in scripture Jesus teaches us what to do, but sometimes he modeled how to walk with the Father. If the Son of God needed the refreshment of prayer, how much more do we need it? It sometimes seems like Jesus would rather pray than eat or sleep. Even though he was fully God, Jesus sought strength in prayer.
Jesus blazed a trail for us to follow by his belief in the trustworthiness of the Father.
Jesus demonstrated that prayer is not about getting what we want; it is about agreeing with the Father’s plans and purposes. On the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus’ deep commitment to the Father. He could only do that because he confidently knew the Father was trustworthy. He knew God’s plans were good and perfect. Prayer for him on those nights when his friends fell asleep was about surrendering to Calvary.
Jesus often retired to a solitary place for prayer.
During these quiet moments Jesus expressed and cemented his commitment to the Father’s will. Sometimes God’s purposes may appear scary to us, but we need to realize that doing things our own way will not satisfy. In the end God’s plans will not be thwarted and we may hurt ourselves more if we continue chasing our own selfish desirers. When Peter awoke on the Mount of Transfiguration he completely missed that Moses and Elijah were there to prepare Jesus for his departure in Jerusalem. This is why he was spouting such nonsense about building three tabernacles. With a voice coming out of a cloud God’s rebuke was frightening. When the disciples awoke in the Garden of Gethsemane they were ill-prepared for what would happen next. On the night Jesus was arrested they fled in terror. Peter denied he even knew Jesus.
1) What might have changed if the disciples had stayed awake, and prayed with Jesus?
2) What are some of the costs of our prayerlessness?
Luke 9:32b says, “…but when they became fully awake they saw his glory…”
We need to fully awaken from our spiritual slumber. When we don’t heed Jesus’ call we miss more than a blessing and comfort. We miss seeing the glory of the living God.